Warning: There are some spoilers in this, so proceed at your own risk!
I know, I know – the big movie this weekend is Michael Bay’s remake of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and while the Mysterious Mr. C and I have seeing that on our agenda, we were just too exhausted from this week to make it to the theater.
So instead, we did what has quickly become a Friday night tradition – a quiet, relaxing movie night at home. While these movies have come from our ever-growing collection of DVDs in the past, this time around we went with How to Train Your Dragon, which was showing on FX.
Though I had initially dismissed this film when it first came out in 2010, thinking it was strictly kiddie fare, I had heard really good things about it ever since – especially when the sequel came out earlier this year. So, we decided to give it a shot!
The special effects in How to Train Your Dragon really are incredible, especially during the flight sequences, but ultimately the movie is a classic coming-of-age story, with the requisite tropes. There is the difficult tough-man father, the slightly nerdy son, and the rough-and-tumble culture where he just doesn’t quite fit in. That said, it is a bit different from the standard fare.
First of all, while Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) begins the film wanting to become a typical, dragon-killing Viking like his father, Stoick (voiced by Gerard Butler), the tribe’s chieftain, that seems to pass fairly quickly. Sure, like any child he wants to make his father proud, but apart from the opening sequence, Hiccup struck me as being very sure of himself and what he does and doesn’t believe (i.e., not killing dragons). Instead of trying to get the tribe to accept him, the story seems to be more about getting the other Vikings to adjust their one-sided view of dragons. As a result, there wasn’t the same amount of angst in How to Train Your Dragon as there has been in similar films, and I appreciated that.
I also appreciated the fact that Hiccup doesn’t come out of the movie’s final battle unscathed (he loses his left foot in the fight with the monster dragon). I knew that both he and Toothless, his dragon, had to survive – there is a sequel after all! – but I really didn’t see his injury coming. Though the film did rush through the rehabilitation process that goes along with amputation, too many stories these days only show the happy-go-lucky side of life, but not the consequences that can come with certain actions. Yet the fact that Hiccup is able to modify Toothless’ saddle and still ride him conveys to kids that while you may need to adapt when faced with certain challenges, you can still do the things you love. And that is a pretty powerful message, regardless of your age.